Why White Lung’s “Paradise” Should Win the Polaris Prize

paradiseGrumblings by Jack Derricourt

When, oh, when lord, when will a Vancouver band get the appreciation they deserve? Since the inception of the bountiful Polaris Prize in 2006, the most metal, dingy, crust-infested, unaffordable city in Canada has been overlooked. Maybe this year?

Fuck it, who knows. But White Lung has put together an album that wins my personal Polaris Prize: the Pidgeon Square Guberatorial Signet of Achievement.

“‘Safe as milk,’ he said.”

White Lung are this sometimes moody always kickass band from Vancouver. They play punk rock made to be played. On the newest release, Paradise, they sound like a band that knows how the hell to make a record after three other already solid, tasty LPs — my personal favourite being 2012’s Sorry.

I’m giving that one a Pidgeon Square whatever as well. There. Now only Vancouver bands have won that merit badge.

Oh man, I’ve become what I hate.

Paradise is a big record, that hangs out on a stadium stage while playing the kind of attractive, story-oriented punk that would make poppish Social Distortion fans grin.

The incredibly detailed guitar work is sculpted like glass all over this thing. Kenneth William’s incredible guitar work shines whether it’s poured through a thin treble sieve, or laid on thick like distorted waves. It sounds silly writing it out, but Mish Way-Barber’s vocals are stellar. She shouts out so passionately through every part of the album, imparting an attitude that crawls up from East Side dive bars and throws cheap beer in your face. There are stories unearthed throughout the straightforward verse and chorus structures, all spoken out with an enthusiasm you won’t find on any of the other Polaris-nominated releases this year.

Things are both light and easy and fucking intense on Paradise. Sometimes things get rather disembodied. Listening to “Narcoleptic” and “Below” makes me feel ethereal and woozy — echoing, chugging, melodic guitar work, and drums that inspire me to clench a fist in the glorious victory of my feelings.

Tracks like “Demented” and “Vegas” do what punk rock should be doing, 25 years post-Nevermind: thrash and tell it like it is. There’s a very heavy edge to this album, one which never gets reduced by the more polished parts of the record.

And “Kiss Me When I Bleed” is a smooth punk whip crack of love.

If I had a vote on the Polaris committee, I’d tear it up and hand out my Pigeon Square cub scout medal to this bad boy. Paradise is the album you need to hear this year while you’re not watching the Polaris coverage.

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